2091 Slighs Avenue
State Hospital Cemetery for African Americans
Between 2,000 and 3,500 African Americans are buried in this historic cemetery plot on Slighs Avenue. The cemetery was established as a segregated burial ground exclusively for black patients from the now defunct State Hospital for the Mentally Ill, located on Bull Street and operative from 1828 through the 1980s. It was situated at the far edge of the Hospital property and was inaccessible by public road until the late 1980s. Patients were buried in the cemetery until 1922, and by 1930 another cemetery for black patients had opened at State Park, the hospital asylum established north of the city for African Americans.(1)
The cemetery was largely forgotten by the public and local government until 1983, when a railroad relocation project undertaken by the city necessitated the reburial of some of the graves on Slighs Avenue. The presumed knowledge of this site from that point provided the basis for a controversy that erupted in the early 2000s. Though the City Council voted unanimously in 2001 to “preserve, protect, and appropriately honor” those buried off of Slighs Avenue, a jointly funded project to develop a golf course on cemetery land nonetheless materialized over the next decade. Today, the James E. Clyburn Golf Center, supported by the city and a private foundation, is situated over the site of the old African American cemetery. The golf facility has mounted a net to catch balls from landing on where they believe graves are located.
(1) Michael Trinkley, Ph.D and Debi Hacker,“Dealing with Death: The Use and Loss of Cemeteries by the S.C. State Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina.” Columbia SC: Chicora Foundation Inc, (January 17 2001).